About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. It’s very likely that we all know someone affected by this disease. Breast Cancer Awareness month is a time to educate women about breast cancer and the importance of routine breast health checkups. We spoke with Dr. Wydell Williams, Jr., Board Certified general surgeon and experienced surgical oncologist, about what to know about breast cancer, the importance of testing and his passion for breast cancer awareness.
Beginning at what age do you encourage women to begin having mammograms?
The American Cancer Society currently recommends that women ages 40 to 44 have the choice to start yearly mammography appointments. They recommend that women ages 45 to 54 receive mammography every year and that women 55 and older can switch to having a mammogram every 2 years or continue yearly screening, if they choose. Women should discuss the decision of when to start and stop with their physicians. It should be personalized and women with high risk factors may need to begin earlier than the recommendations. All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.
What are the risk factors of breast cancer? Are there any risk factors women can work on changing or modifying?
Risk factors increase your chances of getting breast cancer, but it does not mean you will get it. There are factors that you cannot change and some which by making changes may lower your risk. Being born female, getting older and inheriting certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, will increase chances naturally.
Breast cancer is more common in females, but men may also get it. As age increases so does your risk to get breast cancer. Most are found in women age 55 and older. If you inherit the BRCA gene, it can increase your chances of getting breast cancer. In addition, it also increases your risk for other cancers, such as ovarian. There are other genes that can be inherited but do not increase someone’s risk as much as the BRCA genes.
Lifestyle-related risk factors may increase your chances of getting breast cancer as well. These are usually related to personal behaviors, such as diet and exercise. Decisions about having children, breast feeding, and taking certain medications that contain hormones are other related lifestyle-related risk factors for breast cancer.
What should women know about mammograms, and how can they prepare?
There are several things to be aware of when preparing for a mammogram. Choose a facility that specializes in mammograms. Using the same facility year to year is important so that they can compared prior mammograms to the present one. If you are unable to do this obtain your old mammograms and bring them with you so they can be used to compare. Schedule it for when your breasts are not tender or swollen. This will help reduce any discomfort you may experience.
Wearing a two-piece outfit may make it easier to remove your top and bra for your mammogram. Don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirants. They may contain substances that can show up as white spots on the mammogram.
Be prepared to spend 20-30 minutes for a screening mammogram and longer for a diagnostic mammogram. Also tell the technologist or radiologist any changes in your breast, history of breast surgeries, risk factors or if you had breast cancer. Don’t assume your mammogram is normal and always follow up with your doctor.
Why are you passionate about breast cancer awareness?
As a surgical oncologist I have devoted my career to treating patients with cancer. From early in my career treating breast cancer patients has been an integral portion of my practice. It was in my training that I remember how breast cancer was treated and felt we could do better. We have improved in detection and treatment of breast cancer. The knowledge we have gained has improved the survival in breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer can lead to diagnosing at an earlier stage and better survival.
How do you like to spread awareness and be an advocate for your patients and survivors?
This year I chose to participate in the American Cancer Society “Real Men Wear Pink” Fundraising Campaign. By getting involved, I am supporting people take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer or find it early, when it's easier to treat, and receive free information and services.
Please join me in raising awareness to support the improvement in early detection, treatment, research and support for breast cancer patients and their families.
During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Breast Care Services team at MountainView Hospital and Red Rock Radiology, a department of MountainView, encourages women to know their risk factors and talk to their doctors about getting a mammogram.
If you are in need of an annual screening mammogram, but do not have health insurance, during the month of October 2020, MountainView Hospital and Red Rock Radiology are offering $75, 3D digital screening mammograms. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call Red Rock Radiology at (702) 962-7775.